Monday, May 19, 2014

If Churches Meant the Songs They Sing

This past weekend we attended Beach Blast in Myrtle Beach. Our main reason for going was the four of us love the musical group, Jesus Culture. They did not disappoint. They don't just perform. They worship and with that worship they pull down the Holy Spirit.

One song in particular, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here,  really made me think. Check these lyrics out.

 Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord

What if churches not only sang this song but literally meant it?

But I am pretty certain we must really mean we welcome the Holy Spirit, and not on our terms but God's. We might have to let go of ritual, tradition, and our comfort levels. What a concept if churches were led by the Holy Spirit and not just on occasion. Not your minister, elders, the ones that give the most money, the ones that complain the most, but a church really plugged in and willing to not only invite the Holy Spirit but to give free reign. Is it possible? I believe so but some hard truths would have to be dealt with. I can think of a few.

Church staff would have to trust God and not their salary provided by the church. That is tough. They have families to feed as well, right? What about music? The very way many of us express worship the most. Sadly, it is as big a divider in church as anything I can think of. The music is too loud. The music is too tame. I don't like hymns. I only want hymns. We have traditional and contemporary services because of music. In essence we create two churches within in one church. Is that really what Jesus wants for His church?

I love my church but I struggle with it. We talked about implementing changes years ago. I never forget one  person saying, "There are two types of churches, relevant and irrelevant. We have to decide what we want to be." Years later we still have not decided. Sadly, that is a decision in itself.

Many years ago I was told this joke.

It is Sunday morning and a man who had to much to drink the night before is sitting on the sidewalk. A nice car comes to a stop beside him and the man driving asks, "Sir, could you direct us to the Church of God?"

The man scratches his chin, deep in thought. "The Methodist Church is two blocks east, but the Jones' family owns that. The Baptist Church is one block west but the Smith family runs that. Mister, come to think of it I don't really know of a church God owns around here."

A long time ago the most spiritual man I ever knew, Horace Hilton, left a large church, to come Shepherd a church with fifty members. It was a traditional Presbyterian Church. He came with a message of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Pretty radical message for that time. I asked him once, "How many members left?"

He responded. "About half stayed and half left." The church grew dramatically because he was following the Holy Spirit. He did not get  hung up over people who got angry and left, and yes took their tithes with them. He trusted the vision that he was shown. Soon, that little church was the most relevant church in the area.  

Think about it.

 Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Foundation & Getting it Right

I am in my mid fifties and I have been married for a little over one year. Like many of us I had a string of failed relationships behind me. I had spent quite a bit of time alone in the past few years and I reached a place where I told God, "I don't want to be alone the rest of my life but if it is not something you are on board with I don't want any part of it because it will fail like all the others." I actually meant that when I said it. Because, let's be honest, don't we often charge down the path of our choosing and then ask God to bless it after the fact? I'm not saying he can't or won't, but it took me a long time to realize it is much wiser to bring him in earlier rather than later.

My wife, Julie, and I met at church where I jokingly say she barged across the front of the church and introduced herself and life was never the same. We had that wonderful initial mutual attraction where your emotions run wild and you miss that person the moment they depart. We even had a supernatural moment where we knew that God was on board if we chose to go forward. It was still our choice. We could have chosen to hang on to past hurts and future fears.

We prayed a lot together. We also shared unpleasant things about our past, about ourselves. That is hard isn't it? You are falling for this person and you don't want to give them pause. I often said to her. "Let's put all our chips on the table. Let's find out early if there is a deal breaker."

So that was our foundation. Honesty, not just about the good stuff we like to share, but the stuff we still have scars from. The things that we are still uncertain about.  By choosing to do this something almost as wonderful as falling in love with each other occurred.  By sharing those difficult things we found a safe place with each other and we helped heal each other of past hurts.

I am no one to counsel anyone. But even I know honesty is the only good way to build anything worthwhile. Push through that fear of hiding things, of ignoring that little voice in your spirit that keeps you from having peace.

I have written about a foundation, a beginning, so maybe many of you might think that this could not apply to you. I beg to differ, because I believe in a God of second chances. I believe you can choose to start over and not with someone else. You can choose to build the foundation fresh, even if it means first taking a sledgehammer to the previous foundation.

You have to be honest. You have to be able to handle truth. And the best advice I can give is when it feels like it is going astray, get down on your knees together and pray. God bless all of you.

Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie, and one spoiled rotten black Chihuahua mix, Sydny. He has lived in this area of southeastern North Carolina his entire life and many years ago was among the very first students to be bused to another school to achieve real integration.
He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘hearts have no color’.
The River Hideaway is his first published work of fiction.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Heaven is for Real

I saw Heaven is for Real last night and I continue to be encouraged with how well Christian based movies are doing at the box office. The theater was close to capacity last night, which considering it was beginning the third week I found impressive.

I enjoyed the movie and I won't play movie critic here, though we are all movie critics, aren't we? Some are just wise enough to get paid to do it.

The part that intrigued me the most was how the same people who prayed for the little boy's recovery, also found it difficult when he began speaking about visiting Heaven. I think it removed them from their comfort zones. It is easy for us to discount what we have not experienced personally. I have heard people say they are comfortable with their church, or their particular denomination, and its routine. I wonder did Jesus die on a cross so we could be comfortable?

It is also resonated with me with an event in my own life. I have shared previously about my Damascus Road bright light moment when I was a troubled young man. I was dramatically Born Again.

Many people questioned what happened, though my life turned immediately. A story like mine, turning from a life of drugs, alcohol abuse, crime, and promiscuity, I thought the church people would receive me with open arms, and some did. Many did not. They turned their nose up at me. They balked at a story of a young man walking a street one night, and hearing, and experiencing intimacy with God. His life changing with the blink of an eye. Maybe they did not understand because it did not happen to them. They questioned whether it was real. They questioned whether I was sincere. Maybe living on probation with a suspended sentence hanging over me, maybe, just maybe I was doing it to fool the law. Secretly, I was probably still distributing pounds of marijuana. 

Now, I always thought there was a God. I didn't believe until that night He met me as I walked gazing at the stars with no destination in mind. But in my worse days I would have never tried to involve God in a ruse like that. Justify my life, sure. But proclaim to be Born Again just to hide drug dealing. No, even I was not that bad. And, I was plenty bad.

They were uncomfortable with the change in my life. Just as many of the same people were uncomfortable with my Mom, who at the age of 53, a good church attending christian woman, also had her Damascus Road moment and was dramatically Born Again. They liked her better, were more comfortable with her being like them.

I was a young man then, and I did not realize how much courage it might have taken for a outstanding member in the church to say, "I never really knew Jesus Christ. I was too prideful. I thought I was better than other people." She changed as much as anyone I know. It did not matter that she did not have a bad life behind her to turn from. She went from a comfortable Sunday school teacher to being totally in love with a Savior. 

Maybe in hindsight it was not difficult for her to be that honest. Maybe she experienced something so powerful, so life rearranging, that she could not have kept quiet about it if she tried. She knew the voice she heard when she was so broken was real. Just as I knew it was Jesus Christ who met a lost young man on a street one night. And, yes, just as a little boy visited Heaven.

The world of Facebook has many drawbacks but one great thing is I have been blessed to reconnect with people of my youth. One in particular is Nicky Pipkin. I told him this story once of what occurred to me after we lost touch. He listened about how the good religious people reacted to my conversion. He said something that I have never forgotten.

"Maybe them not believing says more about their life than anything to do with yours."

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